Common Core and Creative Reuse

We had a great session today with about 25 teachers learning and looting! I will post more about the event soon but first I wanted to share this resource that I mentioned today.

Art teachers are always being asked to accommodate other educational models, like STEM, Common Core, etc. This can be frustrating if it seems as if it is preventing us from teaching art for art’s sake. Don’t let the man get ya down! Remember that teaching creative thinking is one of the highest skills you can deliver to students; if you are doing this well, you will prove your program’s validity and relationship to every other potential content area.

With that said, here is an online resource regarding common core and creative reuse:

Click to access RC2012-John-Cloud-Kaiser-PPT.pdf



Some Inspiration from the West Coast

Most creative reuse lovers know about SCRAP and its beginnings in Portland. Last week I came across this amazing program that is also on the West Coast!

Recology in San Francisco and GLEAN in Portland are programs that allow artists to go through the city dumps and reclaim materials for art.


At GLEAN there are 6 artists in residence who would make great studies for your students:

Francesca Berrini traveled to Senegal and created works using scraps of fabric found at the local market;

Alyssa Kail, who also consults on creative reuse;

MIxed Media artist Sarah Bernstein;

Michelle Liccardo who creates fun 3D works;

and Whitney Nye.


These ladies will be exhibiting their works from the GLEAN residency in August. Check out the GLEANings blog to learn more about the artists and their processes!




Blogging became substantially more difficult when my little one became hypnotized by the glowing white apple on the laptop. As soon as I open the computer, no matter where she is in the house, she comes crawling as fast as possible and attempts to steal the laptop away.

When I’m not chasing her around taking electrical cords away and keeping her out of the toilets, I have been working on CRAFT. Progress greatly slowed as I was working on finding a suitable space for our event. I finally conceded to the idea of having it in a school and have been working with Amanda at DCPS to use the Fillmore Arts Center. Hopefully there will be a final decision on this in the coming week.

A couple of changes that come with using that facility are:

  • We’ll have 3-5 art classroom spaces.
  • We’ve moved the event to August 8
  • The event is considered a DCPS PD (all are welcome) and will be able to count toward recertification hours.

All great changes!

Now, I will begin to plan out the day and decide where I need folks to help out. Currently, I know I need/will need the following:

  1. Donations (More materials, breakfast, door prizes, etc)
  2. Presenters (from Creative Reuse agencies, Environmental agencies, and educators)
  3. Support in the Resource Distribution room (organizing materials to be given away)
  4. Support during the day with other tasks

Thanks for all your help! Email me at for more information or with any suggestions or donations.




The Creative Process in Action

Well folks, it has been a while since I last posted… I took a vacation!  Vacation as a mom of a little one is a bit of a lie; my job never ends. I guess I don’t even really take vacations- just trips. I still woke up every day by 7am without an alarm and played, fed, changed, and put down the little lady for naps. But in between those times was the fun part!

Since I wasn’t home, I didn’t have any chores to take care of during nap time and I got to visit and create with some of my favorite people. My dear friend is getting married this Summer and had the awesome idea of using paper flowers in her wedding!

This Etsy shop sells paper flower bouquets---genius!

This Etsy shop sells paper flower bouquets—genius!

Well, bouquet making went very, very slowly. We made great headway in the decision making department but did not make nearly as many flowers as we originally intended. It would almost seem as though we hadn’t made good use of our time but, we actually worked through a lot of the creative process and that is truly where the bulk of the work lies in art making.

Engineering Design Process  from for all you STEAM teachers

Engineering Design Process from for all you STEAM teachers

I mentioned in a previous post about the similarities of the engineering design process and the art making process.

In art we first identify a need, problem, question, etc. Great artists ask big questions. In the creative process this involves a lot of questioning on the teacher’s part. A great place to sneak in some HOTS questioning.

Next, the artist identifies the criteria and constraints. For example, my friend had to identify what kinds of materials for her flowers she was willing to use and what colors worked in her bouquets. We talked through the idea of a theme: vintage/classic or hip/fun.

Now once we understood theme, materials, and colors we could begin to brainstorm solutions. In the art classroom, this looks different depending on how the students work through their thinking. Some kids sketch, some create by trial and error, others may need to talk with a classmate, or research in a resource center. Regardless of how students brainstorm, its important to have them create several (3-5) different ideas.

From there, the students can select their best idea and work it into the final product.

Part of the art making process that is often left out is the refining. In the NASA model above, this is set alone at the end however, in art, refining is done throughout the process. Students should constantly be looking at their work for ways to improve and to make sure that they are communicating their idea. Here are some great tips for helping kids look at and refine their work:

1. Take a tour. By taking a break, walking around and looking at the work of others the student can get a fresh perspective of their own work. Walking away and coming back helps refocus our minds. Some teachers have the entire class take a “gallery walk.”

2. Praise and Polish (adapt activity on link for art). Have students fold a paper in half and leave it in front of their work. On the top of one side write “Praise” and on the other side write “Polish.” Students then walk around and look at 3 other students work and leave them one positive thing about their work and one thing to improve. (Obviously, you should have taught about constructive criticism prior to this activity).

3. Think, Pair, Share. I love cooperative learning techniques and this is one of my favorites because of its simplicity and adaptability. Ask your class a question. For example: “In what way does your artwork reflect your selected theme?” Give them one minute to think about their answer. After one minute, have them pair with a neighbor and answer the question. (A well trained class will know how to ask one another good questions). Finally, have a few children share their answers with the class.

4. A good old-fashioned art critique.  We all have used these before and they are important because they provide the teacher the opportunity to model questioning and information sharing in art.

So, how far did we get in the bouquet making— I think we were at select an approach before I had to head off back to VA. I miss them already and will be here, making paper flowers at nap time.

Plastic Bag Monoprints

I never used Ziploc bags in my kitchen until I needed something to store frozen baby food. For some reason, I got the bright idea to buy that set of Ziplocs at Costco- they were on sale and I will never need plastic bags again! The thing I don’t like about plastic bags for storage is you really can’t use them again once you put food in them because they are a pain to clean out.

On top of the Ziploc issue, I have the “I have a billion reusable bags that I never remember to take to the store” problem. Therefore, I have a wide collection of plastic bags from various stores to add to my Ziploc pile. If you read my post about the Pacific Trash Island, you’ll understand why I find this plastic bag issue bothersome.

So today, I am sharing a great reuse art activity for plastic bags that can be implemented with any grade level! Monoprints are a fun activity and great for the end of the year when the kiddos want to paint but you don’t want to get everything out (or don’t have much left).


I tried used Ziploc bags and store bags and had great results with both! All you need is plastic bags, tempera (one color only for best results with littles, older kids may add a second or third color but I wouldn’t use too many), brushes or brayers, and paper (whatever you can find).

Here are 2 basic monoprint methods that can be used with tempera paint and plastic bags…

The first print technique is working negatively:


Paint your surface with an even layer of paint. Then, begin to take up paint with the tool of your choice: finger, brush, Q-tip, etc. (I used my finger but quickly switched to baby wipes for cleanliness).


Once you have finished your negative drawing you will print your picture by placing paper on top and smoothing it gently with your hands.


Peel it off carefully and you have your print!DSC08136



The second technique is working positively, instead of painting a large square, you will paint your image directly on the bag:


The bag is also a great place to plop down the paint you’ll need without dirtying another palette.



You need to work quickly so your paint doesn’t dry up but also make sure you don’t leave  large puddles of paint- those will turn into blobs on your print.

Now, lay your paper on top, gently rub the print, and pull…DSC08140DSC08141DSC08142Any paper works for printing; I used that same old National Geographic from this post.

And that’s it! Feel free to embellish your dry prints with other media like oil pastels, sharpies, etc. 

Have fun and happy printing!

Tape Transfers- How To

This past Saturday I went to Art Education DC‘s Mixed Media and Margaritas event at the ARC in SE DC. First of all, I got SUPER lost getting there because SE is not set up at all like the rest of DC and it can be crazy to drive around but, once I got there we had a grand ole time (probably cause I was the one with the Tequila). We each received a mixed media sketchbook courtesy of Dick Blick and there were 4 stations set up: Monoprinting, Tape Transfer, Suminagashi, and Watercolor (and, of course, margaritas).

I had seen the tape transfer from afar at one of our other PDs but had never had the opportunity to do it (and I really have to do something to get it). These are great for collages and mixed media artworks and are great examples of creative reuse in art.

In order to do a tape transfer you will need: 

Packing tape



Magazines or print outs of clip art

National Geographic works great but you can't use the cover. I picked up this bad boy at SCRAP DC a few weeks ago.

National Geographic works great but you can’t use the cover. I picked up this bad boy at SCRAP DC a few weeks ago.

Here are the steps to creating a tape transfer:

Cut out the image you want to transfer.


Put the packing tape over the image. Start in the middle and work your way out to the sides to prevent bubbles.


Put the taped image in the water for a minute or so.


In the water, rub off the back of the paper. It should come off easily; if it is rough, let it soak a little longer.



Mine fell off, probably cause it was an old NG.

Finally, stick it to your paper. The glue will be sticky still so you can put it down while it is somewhat damp.


And you’re done! Easy, right? This would work great will kids from elementary to high school. For younger kids, try the Scotch tearable tape.

For more pics from Saturday’s event, check out my friend and colleague Meghan’s blog. She was our event photographer and she even captured my little lady’s first taste of lime (which was not nearly as funny as I’d hoped but I sure think she’s cute)!

Critical Thinking Skills and Art

This is the third installment of our series on the importance of art in education.

My husband is a businessman, personally the idea of a cubicle or office makes my skin crawl but I’ve always been amazed that our dinner conversations revealed similar concerns with our vastly different workplaces.  A lack of critical thinking skills in our students and workforce is a contributor to our slow crawl away from the top of the world’s educational systems. I’m also fairly certain that standardized testing will not create the workforce of which my husband hopes to one day be the CEO (or US President- he dreams big).

I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember very many of the dates, events, and formulas that were forced into my brain in school as a means to passing a test. I was in high school when NCLB first started to go into effect and I remember the stress on my teachers and classmates. But, I don’t remember a whole lot of the content. (I did pass the tests though, and earned all the incentives our school would throw at us because: incentives!)

In fact, my best educational experience was graduate school. Seriously, I waited 22 years and paid a whole bunch of money before I finally got a great education! It was the first time in my career that I was asked to really ask questions and think critically. (Which is really sad because I had plenty of Art classes in undergrad and that shows you how even our art classes are not asking us to think at a higher level. That’s a post for another day.)

According to Edward Glasser, critical thinking can be described in this way:

The ability to think critically, as conceived in this volume, involves three things: (1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods.

This is what was great about my graduate school experience, the same thing that is great about a well-taught art class: it asks you to look at your surroundings and THINK about them with reason and logic.

In DCPS, they were big on HOTS (higher order thinking skills). That was a part of my evaluation that I struggled with in the beginning but eventually learned to master with one change to my teaching: asking questions, lots of questions. As my students were in the developing stages of their artworks I would ask them questions related to it, probing for deeper meaning to the work they were creating. Once, I was able to take the focus off of my exemplars and ideas (through choice) I was able to put the students in control of their work, and it turn received much better response to my HOTS questioning.

A true art experience should function in this same manner; it should be student-centered. Asking students to find and solve problems and by asking questions. Students should be researching, talking to one another, and coming up with new, innovative approaches to art. When art is taught correctly, it teaches critical thinking that will one day invent a new product, meet a need of a poor community, or transform a business. We need these types of minds in our schools and businesses (and government so we don’t end up with another NCLB sitch). We need to nourish the minds that are naturally geared toward questioning and problem solving with the opportunity to create, solve, and improve their world. No more stomping out questions with the “just do as I say” and “just bubble it in” mentality; let’s take back our kids education and let’s start by making sure they have art.


One of my favorite things about art is its ability to take the simple, overlooked elements of life and make them beautiful. Art can make us look at objects and people in a new way; it forces us to not only see the objects, but also their potential.

Any person who has spent any amount of time as a teacher knows the things we do to provide for our students. Our creative nature comes alive as we see potential teaching opportunities in someone else’s trash. I’ve always told friends who collect stuff for me that if they think it can be used in any way just send it over to me and I’ll figure it out. That has led to some really fun projects!

Here are a few items that I have started to collect that have really fueled my imagination.

Produce Bags

Produce Bags

These produce bags have so much potential! I’m thinking weaving, collages, perhaps these clown wigs would be great fun.

Meat Trays

Meat Trays

Styrofoam trays are a great, low cost printmaking option. I used to keep a box of these cut up at my printmaking center for the kids. Tip: After you cut the plates to the size you prefer, keep the scraps for the kids to practice on. It will help them get a good idea of the amount of pressure they need to use before they destroy their work. 

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

I received an entire box of plastic Easter eggs for CRAFT! I can totally see something awesome like this happening:

easter egg sculpture


Hope you are able to find some amazing potential art works this week!

CRAFT Update!

While its been a busy week and I’ve not been able to update the blog for a few days I have made good progress on CRAFT!

STORAGEDonations continue to roll in and my basement is being overtaken with supplies. This is a good problem to have however, I’m going to need to find a decent storage situation soon or we will be on an upcoming episode of Hoarders! I do have one friend who has generously offered a portion of her storage unit so that will be helpful but with the lack of response to our Indiegogo campaign I’m going to have to get creative (or just beg) here soon.

SUPPLIES: Big THANK YOU to those who have already donated supplies! We have lots of great stuff to give to the teachers this summer. I’ve had a few questions about the donation list so I’ve created a list of FAQ’s for you all to check out! Also, I have put some items in bold to help the general public. And when in doubt, feel free to donate it and I will decide what to keep or toss!

LOCATION: So this update is a bummer. I heard back from Cultural DC and Bozzuto want $1000 to use their space for the day. Crazy, right? So, I’m back to square one and really need to figure out something asap. Heather at SCRAP has been super helpful and supportive and recommended finding a sponsor… I don’t even know where to begin with that. I might bug my Principal friends in DCPS since they technically are partnering with me as well.  I present to DCPS on May 2 for their PD day and really want to have all those details squared away by then.

DETAILS: Well, as I have mentioned, DCPS is on board. The stars aligned and timing turned out to be perfect for both of us! Their Art Department has a huge focus on Creative Reuse and Art and the Environment right now so its a perfect match! I was also able to connect SCRAP with DCPS so all is well in the world.

I’m planning on July 31 from 9:30-2:30 for the Professional Development and resource fair. I have begun to work on getting presenters and will continue to focus on that once I know my location.

Wish me luck, pray, share our Indiegogo, and by all means… give me your trash! Thanks for your support!